From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Six of the Seven Wonders
of My World

“This is one of those things I would never be doing if I had not had seven children,” my mother turned to tell me, as we rode through the New Mexico desert in a Chevrolet convertible. She had arrived in Tucson two days before, to accompany me on my move to Washington, D.C. When I told her that I was making the trip, she didn’t wait for me to ask her to help. She just took time off from work, made the reservations, and flew from Chicago to lend a hand and keep me company.

I have often heard it said that when there are seven children, someone is always left behind, as if there were a mathematical equation (number of hours divided by number of children equals amount of attention per child). This was not my reality. I don’t know how my mother did it, but I never felt second—not to my siblings, not to her career or activities, not even to my father.

I remember sitting on her lap as a child, listening to her explain about the eight equal pieces of her heart, one for each of us children and one for my father. I have no idea where my brothers and sisters were when my mother and I played our game of “Mrs. O’Leary and Mrs. Foley,” enjoying tea and cookies while gossiping about the neighbors. Or when she read me to sleep and sang her bedtime song, “Go to sleep, my little pumpkin / to the tips of your toes / If you sleep, my little pumpkin / you’ll turn into a rose.”

When I started kindergarten, my mother told me that if I ever felt alone, all I had to do was blow her a kiss, and she would receive it and blow it right back. I really believed that she got my kisses and that I felt hers in return, and I still believe so today. Somehow the phone always rings when I most need her.

Wherever I am, whatever is happening in my life, I automatically share everything with her first. That makes me wonder what I’ll do someday without her. But I’ve come to understand that my mother will always be here for me. That’s because she’s put the most enduring parts of herself into the seven of us, so I won’t ever feel alone....

When I need her opinion, on anything from raising my children to how to cut my hair, I will call my sister Lisa. From her I’ll get mother’s well thought-out, fair and honest advice.

When I need help solving a problem, I’ll call my brother Bill, for he has Mother’s wisdom and creativity. He also has her ability to look at the world and convince me that he should be running it.

When I think I have too much to do and not enough time for it all, when I need my mother’s strength and humor, I will call Gay, who raises her four children and works three jobs, but still finds time to talk and listen and share a good laugh.

When the world seems dull and repetitive, I will call Jim for a dose of Mother’s magic. Like her, Jim sees the wonder in things. Whether he’s talking to a child or an adult, he will swear at Christmas time that he saw an elf at work.

For Mother’s compassion, when I need somebody to listen and accept me without qualifications, I’ll call Mary, who will make the tea and let me cry, knowing when to be silent.

And when I need my mother’s courage, when I can’t get myself to do something I know I should do, I will call my sister Doyle, who, although she is the youngest, has always had an instinct for what is right and the self-confidence to do it.

So here we were, driving through the desert, with my mother talking about certain things she would not be doing had she not had seven children. Well, there are many wonderful things the seven of us wouldn’t have if she had not had seven children—because we are my mother’s greatest gift to us.

Jane Harless Woodward

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